When Cedric Douglas spotted the foosball table for sale on Craigslist for $50, he knew he had to have it.
But he didn’t make the impulsive purchase to spruce up his rec room; Douglas bought the game so he could lug it around his neighborhood, and entice complete strangers into playing together.
“I go to random places that could use a little creative playmaking, and pop up randomly,” said Douglas, an artist-in-residence at Upham’s Corner Main Street, which promotes the Dorchester neighborhood’s business district.
Douglas first came up with the idea two months ago, after a resident suggested to him that more interactive activities in Upham’s Corner could help foster a close-knit community. He calls it “Playmaking.”
Determined to make it happen, Douglas started breaking out chess and checkerboards, and challenging people to mancala matches twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, outside the Main Street building.
“The point is to bring creativity to people so they’re inspired, and connect,” he said. “I’m playing chess and people are talking about art; and I’m doing community portraits, and people are sitting there playing.”
As more people became intrigued by the sporadic outdoor gaming, Douglas decided to take the project further — so he purchased the foosball table.
Instead of planting himself in front of Main Street’s headquarters, however, he went mobile.
“When I brought it around, it was kind of crazy how many people knew how to play and were kicking my butt at it,” Douglas said.
Last Tuesday, he showed up at a bus stop on Columbia Road and Dudley Street.
“People thought I was selling it. I got offered $150 for it. I thought, maybe I should sell it and get two of them,” he said, jokingly.
Douglas said his success with the foosball table led to yet another idea, so he purchased an arcade video game. He plans to station the game outside on the sidewalks in random parts of Dorchester this summer.
“It’s Popeye; I wish it was Pacman, but it’s still a cool game. It’s all positive, and you have to collect hearts for Olive Oyl,” he said. “The whole project, though, is kind of evolving, and I don’t know what will happen next.”
All that matters is that people keep getting to know one another, and keep playing along.
“During these interactions people are talking and they don’t even know each other — and then they might find out that they live on the same street. They start to realize things about each other, and all of these crazy things happen. That’s what’s really cool about it. It’s just unexpected,” he said.